Chrishon Lampley Photo by Christian De'Mar

By Maureen Callahan

Wine shopping can be complicated and intimidating if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Former Downers Grove resident and owner of Love Cork Screw Wine, Chrishon Lampley, has changed that.

She’s spent the last ten years moving ahead in a crowded industry by making wine shopping simple and fun. Her labels, all of which sport a heart in place of a letter, have names like Head Over Heels, In Two Deep, and Be the Light. The clever titles speak to shoppers.

After attending El Sierra, O’Neill, and eventually Downers Grove South, she went on to earn a combined BS in Consumer Science and Business Fashion degree through a collaborative program between Western Illinois University and the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.

The opportunity to live in New York’s Garment District cultivated Lampley’s interest in fashion. Her first job involved high-end retail sales and management. After managing a few million dollars in sales, she had an a-ha moment. “I got tired of making money for everyone else,” Lampley realized. “I wanted something for myself.”

She utilized the artistic skills she cultivated while working in fashion to co-open and own Three P’s- pottery, painting, and photography- an art and wine bar in the city’s South Loop neighborhood. For two years, Three P’s operated as an upscale neighborhood art gallery/wine bar.

Owner Chrishon Lampley and Sheetal Bhagat, Founder and Owners of Spice Note at Chrishon’s inaugural Clink Festival.

Lampley created the wine list, which earned her Chicago’s Best Wine List in 2009. “We were kind of like the art gallery version of Cheers,” Lampley laughed. “We not only had amazing art, but the idea of a full bar in a gallery was different than what was out there at that moment.”


“I’ve had great success. If I can, I always want to take somebody with me.”

– Former DG resident and owner of Love Cork Screw Wine, Chrishon Lampley, on helping other underrepresented entrepreneurs gain visibility.


Unfortunately, a stumbling block in the form of a flood forced Lampley to shutter the business just two years later. To shake herself out of the disappointment of losing the gallery, she channeled the negative energy into some new endeavors.

To stay in the wine game, she began a blog, which eventually morphed into a podcast entitled Love Cork Screw. Although originally meant to be a way to stay visible in the industry, it became a form of therapy that gained Lampley 4,000 listeners. The title had a threefold meaning.

The “Love” section consisted of stories and misadventures of two single gals- herself and her business partner- living in the city. “Cork” covered Lampley’s varietal picks and restaurant recommendations. Pop culture and a weekly wildcard topic fell under “Screw.”

Chrishon with Brian Lesperance of Fenn Valley Vineyards where she sources some of her varietals.

While the podcast helped shake off the blues, it wasn’t really something that could be monetized. It did, however, help usher in Lampley’s current endeavor. “I thought to myself, ‘What do I want to do that everyone tells me I can’t do’? I thought about how, although the wine market is saturated, there’s nobody in it that looks like me.” With her list of industry contacts in hand, she drove to the vineyards with whom she had built relationships from her wine bar.

Under the tutelage of the vineyard owners, she learned to make wine. She asked to be taught the ins and outs of creating custom crush blends by working hand-in-hand with the winemakers. From residual sugar trials to becoming familiar with the aging process to choosing the type of storage barrels she would use, Lampley proved a quick study.

Now a decade in business, Lampley is a wildly successful négociant- the French title for a wine merchant who buys the grapes from vineyards and creates their own wine. Her label, Love Cork Screw, has sold three million bottles! Last year, Lampley was recognized as the first African-American woman in the Midwest to create a national wine brand.

Lampley’s mindset, “enjoy it, drink it, but don’t overthink it,” has carried her a long way. She realizes that for some, the wine aisle can be intimidating. According to her, “90% of people are just looking for something they like; there are very few connoisseurs.”

She created her labels with fun, double entendres to speak to buyers from a market shelf. Take her pinot grigio, ‘Good Times Good Friends,’ for example. “People might not know the menu of the barbeque they’re going to,” Lampley explained. “But they’re looking for a bottle to give the host. This name will speak to them, and the varietal pairs well with a typical menu for a gathering, so they’ll remember it.” Genius.

Her passion for wine has opened doors to other business opportunities, as well as the chance to share her success. The Lampley, her line of home goods, ranges from candles and handmade soaps to textiles, cork art, and throw pillows.

And yes- you guessed it- wine! While the concepts behind the items are largely her own, Lampley hires creatives to help bring products to life. She enjoys showcasing the original work of other Chicagoland entrepreneurs. “I have a large platform, and I want to be sure I can help others be seen and make money,” she said. “I’ve had great success. If I can, I always want to take somebody with me.”

Clink Fest is an annual gathering created by Lampley which offers an opportunity for underrepresented entrepreneurs in the wine and spirit industry to gain visibility.

Last year’s inaugural event was held at Elmhurst History Museum. The event was so successful, however, that it outgrew the space. This year, it’s set to be held at Bridgeport Art Museum.

Lampley vets and curates Clink Fest herself, with sponsorship coming through Absolut and Stoli, as well as other national brands. She invites others from the industry- at no charge- to showcase their labels to buyers and consumers to gain visibility.

“I want to support other women and people of color and really get these small businesses out there,” she said. “Mariano’s sponsors it and provides some amazing chefs to handle all the food.”

For Lampley, growing up in Downers Grove, a place of little diversity at the time, made her what she is today- successful. Her parents had amazing perspectives on the difficulties they knew she would face and prepared her well with much self-confidence.

“Downers Grove was not at all diverse when I grew up there,” Lampley remembered. “But it connects me to where I am now, in an industry that doesn’t look like me, either. I learned early on to grow tough skin.”

Look for Love Cork Screw at Mariano’s, Jewel-Osco, Meijer, and select Target and Walmart stores. Lampley’s wine and home goods line may be found at and Visit to snag tickets for this year’s Clink Fest on September 17.

Clink Festival is an annual Chicago-based wine and spirits festival dedicated to highlighting women and minorities in the industry.